Keys to the Game: Conn. Sun, June 29
Phoenix and Connecticut meet for the first of two matchups in 2013, the second coming in Phoenix on Aug. 31.
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The Sun has won four of the last five meetings overall in the head-to-head series, a stretch that immediately follows a five-game series win streak by the Mercury. The Mercury looks to win consecutive visits to Mohegan Sun since June 29, 2008-July 28, 2009.
However, it won't be easy. Connecticut is hungry for a win after losing three games in a row.
The Sun feature perennial All-Star Tina Charles and legend Kara Lawson (a game-time decision) who are both playing at an incredibly high level. Additionally, Allison Hightower has stepped up to average 12.8 points, three rebounds, and three assists in 31 minutes of action.
Here are the keys to a Mercury win:
The Mercury has won six of their last seven games, but there's little denying the team hasn't played to its potential quite yet.
“We didn’t play too well, but we are happy to come away with a win," said Brittney Griner after the team's win in Washington Thursday.
That quote came after the Mercury scored 101 points while shooting 53.7 percent from the floor in a 101-97 victory against the Mystics.
Even so, there's a consensus throughout the team that they still have a lot of room to improve. If they can put together a solid, consistent 40 minutes of play on the last leg of a three-game road trip, it could generate some positive momentum before they return home to face the Liberty on July 2.
Tina Charles is nearly impossible to guard.
Averaging a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds per game, Charles has virtually unlimited range and a dazzling array of moves in the paint.
Certainly, containing Charles will be a huge priority for Phoenix. Brittney Griner and Krystal Thomas will have their hands full, so it's important to make Charles work hard on the defensive end of the floor as well.
Like Griner, Charles' presence can impact the game in multiple ways. She's lethal one-on-one but is also an underrated passer if the double-team comes.
Guarding her will take a group effort for the Mercury.
Grinding it Out
The last game of any road trip is never easy.
In this case, the Mercury face the Sun on the finale of a tough, three-game East Coast road trip. Phoenix has will play seven of its first 11 games on the road, including the fewest home games of any WNBA team in June.
The travel can be physically exhausting. Still, as the team has demonstrated the past few games when they haven't fully clicked, there are times when you just have to grind out a win.
That's exactly the mentality they'll need in Connecticut.